31 March, 2012

31 March 2012

Einar was on his feet again by the time Liz got done with the fire, fumbling himself free of the hauling strap and weaving his way back over to their little shelter beside the tree, somewhat confused as to why she wasn’t out preparing to leave but recognizing in her actions a clear intention to stay put. Which meant they would be needing more firewood, and he set about collecting it, lacking the energy to both do that task and work on figuring out why they were staying, but supposing the wood must be given first priority. Wood, and some way to better block the wind, and he knew they had a nearly ideal solution in the bundle of white fabric Liz had been hauling, deposited his small armload of broken branches in the snow beside her and went to begin rigging something.

Tangled, icy, the chutes proved quite difficult to handle, but once he’d managed to loosen the wrapped cords with which Liz had secured them for the haul he was able to begin making some progress, shaking first one and then the other to free them of accumulated ice and discovering to his relief that, temperatures having been uniformly cold there beneath the spruces where Kilgore had stashed them, they were not soaked and frozen all the way through. Were, in fact, largely dry inside, not too difficult to manipulate at all, aside from the grabbing, tearing force of the wind which seemed to be trying its best to rip the things out of his hands and send them sailing up into the upper boughs of whichever tree happened to be nearest.

Fighting the wind, keeping the chute collapsed until he could properly secure it, Einar got the first one snubbed tightly around the tree that sheltered them, running a cord over to an adjacent tree and yet another to a tree over on the opposite side of their little camp so that the canopy arched over them; not the best parachute shelter he’d ever made, not by a long shot, but it would do. Would provide them, at least, a good bit of shelter from the wind and the snow it drove before, from time to time. Which gave him an idea, and, taking one of the snowshoes he’d planted tail-end up in the snow to avoid being lost, he shuffled around behind the suspended chute, crouching there on the windy side and using his snowshoe as a shovel to scoop and pile snow all along the trailing edge of the chute, holding it securely in place. Good. Done. Far less wind would reach them, now.

Liz was still in the shelter doing something with the fire, or perhaps with Will; darkness was beginning to set in, and her shadow showed up black and sharp against the blowing billows of the chute, which glowed an alarmingly bright shade of white in the encroaching dusk. No matter. No one out there to see it, not on a night like that, not--he paused for a moment, face to the wind--unless Bud and Susan had missed their plane and subsequently managed to work their way back down towards the cabin. Then, but only if the couple happened to be out for some reason wandering about in the timber below the cabin-plateau, which seemed unlikely unless they were for some reason entirely lost, there was some chance they might find themselves near enough to spot the glow radiating from that parachute. The thought made Einar uncomfortable, left him squirming in his skin at the possibility, which he knew was not an entirely reasonable response given that the two could definitely be classified as friendly, and he turned back towards the shelter, and Liz, working hard to suppress a rather strong urge to make his way to the duffel and retrieve that rifle, spend the night standing watch. Get back in there beside that fire, you fool. Scariest thing out here in this timber tonight is your own mind, which can indeed be one formidable critter, but there’s no getting away from that one, and patrolling the place with a rifle won’t provide much of a defense, either.

Liz was glad to see him as he shuffled back into camp, hand trailing on the parachute to prevent his wandering off course, had been about to go out and see what was taking him so long, make certain that he hadn’t ended up on his face again in the snow.

“Come on in and give it a try! You’ve more than cut the wind in half with that parachute, and this place is almost starting to get cozy.”

Too weary for immediate words, Einar lowered himself to the ground beside the fire, sat staring into its depths for a moment before raising his head, searching for the baby. Found him, his little shape nestled against Liz beneath her parka, and a momentary smile softened his features. “Little one staying warm enough in there?”

“Oh, yes. This parka is great. He’ll be just fine.”

“Thought you wanted to get him home and out of the wind for the night, but when I saw that you were staying…well, I put up a tent.”

“We are out of the wind, thanks to you. It’s a great tent. We’ll have a fine night here.”

“You didn’t think I could make it.”

“I didn’t think you should try, which is a different thing entirely. We knew this might be a two day trip when we started out, and there’s nothing wrong with spending a night out, now and then. This will be Will’s first night out of the cabin, and my first since the birth, too, and I guess it’s never too early to introduce a little one to winter camping!”

“Winter camping…? Our whole lives are winter camping, more or less, but you know, this is one lucky kid to have a mother like you. You’re a pretty amazing human critter, O Mother of a Mountain Tribe.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it. He’s your son, and he has me for a mother because you chose to walk this path with me, and I with you, and now you’d better get in closer to the fire and have some supper with me, before I have to knock you in the head with my rabbit stick and drag you along the path, for a while.”

Laughing softly--though not for a moment doubting her resolve in the matter, suspiciously eyeing the spot where one of her hands was concealed from his view beneath her parka--Einar scooted nearer the fire, and Liz, pulling the second parachute, which being inside the first, had remained entirely free of snow and ice, up over their legs as additional shelter from the cold. Liz already had water simmering for a supper of stewed pemmican, a thick, rich mixture which had sustained them on more than one mid-winter excursion and whose mixture of fat, protein and the sugar that would come from Liz’s addition of honey would do well to see them warmly through the night. Einar, still struggling with a significant amount of digestive difficulty as his body adjusted to eating once more on a fairly regular basis, was reluctant to try more than a taste of the stuff, but Liz left him little choice, growling under her breath about the rabbit stick and about how she had no intention of hauling his frozen body back up the remainder of that slope, in addition to the cache and all of its contents, and at last, he ate.

Darkness complete and the little family tucked in as snugly as possible beneath the shelter of the timber and further protected by the two parachutes they prepared for sleep, Liz retrieving with some difficulty several rocks that she had found partially embedded in the snow at the base of their tree and warming them in the coals, wanting something to help keep them warm through the night. Liz slept in her parka, arms drawn inside and Will nestled in beside her, not in the least aware that they were anywhere other than sheltered in the cozy confines of the cabin. Einar, too, remained in his parka, accepting the rocks Liz gave him, bringing them inside the rather too roomy confines of his coat and curling his exhausted frame around them, too cold and weary to do much else that night, but mind at the same time too preoccupied with the documents Kilgore had left him to permit sleep. He had tried, pushing himself beyond his limits in the haul up from the basin, to forget the matter for the time, set it aside until a more suitable time after his task was finished and through hard work and the focus it demanded of him, had very nearly succeeded, but now in the stillness of the night, motion ceased and only the soft sounds of Liz’s breathing and the wind in the trees to keep him company, it all came back. Sleep was a very long time in coming.

Partway through the night Liz, waking to switch sides with Will, reached over to check on Einar and found him rather too cold for her liking, barely shivering when she knew he ought to be feeling the cold quite intensely, and she moved closer, drawing the second chute more tightly around the three of them and pulling it up over their heads in the hopes of keeping in a bit more of the heat lost in their breathing. Einar was stirring, curling reflexively into a tighter ball as his half-conscious mind sought to conserve heat, keep him alive until morning but Liz feared it might not be enough, gentle hand on his shoulder seeking to wake him. No response, skin ice-cold beneath his parka and she became less gentle, shaking, pounding, knowing she was taking a significant risk by attempting to wake him in such a way but feeling an urgency to do so.

Glad that her efforts at waking Einar had finally succeeded but somewhat worried for the baby, who remained tucked close inside her parka, Liz kept still as Einar came awake and whirled about on her, grabbing her wrists in a grip she wasn't sure she could have loosened, had she tried. "Einar. Wake up. You need to wake up."

Comments from 29 March

Philip wrote…

Mike wrote: Mar 29, 2012 02:57 PM


Forgive me for the mistake. What I said stands. Our veterans deserve so much better treatment than they receive. It breaks my heart.

Thank you!

Mike: Nothing to forgive, I have done the same many times at ~another website~!!! Thank you for remembering our Veterans. I am fortunate to be in an area where many Korean War Vets live... It is my belief that they also got a raw deal upon return home...

In fact, we RVN Vets had a country wide Memorial before the Korean Vets had theirs....

Chris, you are of course familiar with the very old adage, "what doesn't KILL us, Makes us Stronger", it was in that light I looked at recent events.

And to provide a safe exit in any future need, TODAY I located a very close by the day/week or Month RV Park, which I can drive to very quickly, if things go wrong here.

My course of action still stands: Preps on ~small beginnings~ is Priority over all else, though rains are stopping repairs. I need sunny & above 60 degrees to repair/seal my roof. all else is secondary....

Well, wish I could send you some of this sunny, 70 degree weather we’ve been having around here the last few days, so you could get your roof sealed! I don’t want this weather, not now, when it’s supposed to be snowing, but it’s what we’ve got…

Glad to hear you’ve looked into options and have a place to go, should you need to move from your current location. Always good to have a backup like that. But, I hope it works out for you to stay there, if it’s a good place for you.

Anonymous wrote...

I don't say this often enough, but thank you for your time and effort you put into this story. It is one constant in an ever-changing world that there will be a post here each evening, and I look forward to it, even if it is a "no chapter today" post.

Yes, even those convey the continuity that you've given us, and I'm pondering what it is besides our gratitude that we can give to you in exchange for such excellent entertainment with very competent teaching embedded in it.

With your writing, you have a talent that is equaled by only a handful of authors throughout history, and I have a hard time bringing myself to believe that my recognition of that is all that you ask in return. IF it is indeed all that you seek, you have that along with my gratitude, and an open-ended offer of 'whatever I can do' to make the ledger balance.


Bill, thank you! I really do appreciate hearing that the story is beneficial to folks. It is humbling to hear that.

As for what you can do--I just want to make sure people have the opportunity and the will to work on personally acquiring and perfecting the skills that will be necessary to stand as free, self-sufficient men and women in these times and the ones to come, and if this story can help in any small way to inspire, encourage or otherwise lead people in that direction, then the time spent writing it is well worth while. Thanks again!

30 March, 2012

30 March 2012

No chapter today, but there will be chapters over the weekend.

Thank you all for reading, and for your comments!

29 March, 2012

29 March 2012

Einar really did not want to stop. Could feel himself slipping, close to losing contact again with the world around him and because of this possessed a single-minded and rather intense determination to get himself, his burden and his little family up that hill before anything else could happen. Liz wouldn’t have it, was already freeing herself from the straps by which she’d been hauling the parachutes, was casting about for a sheltered spot in which to build a fire, and once again he put aside his own first inclination for what he perceived to be the needs of the child. Little one must need a break, a fire, or Liz would never be insisting so strongly that they stop now, near the willows and so close to home. Fumbling with the straps, hands numb and clumsy and mind seeming to have quite forgotten how to go about untying knots, he struggled to free himself, also, from the traces, join her in the hunt for wood.

Didn’t get very far. The weight of the burden he’d been dragging had been the only thing keeping him on his feet; he’d been leaning against it. Freed, he fell to his knees in the snow, head bowed in exhaustion and the world going dim around him. Did not long remain thus. Seeing Liz busy with her firewood collecting and wanting to help her he was soon on his feet, using counter-pressure with the heels of his hands to grasp and break small dead branches, piling them beneath the spreading canopy of the spruce she had chosen to shelter their fire from the ongoing fury of the storm. Another big blank spot then, Einar coming to with his back against the spruce and a lively little fire crackling not a foot and a half from his boots, and he supposed he must have walked there and sat down, but had no memory of doing so. Liz sat beside him, arms drawn into her parka, feeding the baby. She had been busy. Near the fire sat the pot they’d brought along, its batch of half-melted snow already starting to simmer along the flame-exposed side. Einar rubbed cold hands together, leaned forward to stretch them over the flames. His hips hurt. Stung him whenever he tried to move in the slightest and puzzled, he pressed them, trying to figure out what he might have done to himself. Beneath his parka they were raw and painful where the bone came near the surface, sticky with half-dried blood. Hauling straps had, apparently, chafed and cut the already-injured area; he hadn’t even felt it happening.

No matter, really. The pain was a steadying thing, almost, a point on which he could focus as he struggled to keep himself moving, something solid with which he could contend, and sometimes a person really needed such a thing. Wouldn’t prevent him from carrying out his appointed task, and could be dealt with once they were at the cabin again, and had got the cache contents all sorted out. Cache contents. The thought of it reminded him with a start of the envelope which he had tucked so carefully back into its waterproof bag and then into the duffel, and--thought without reasonable origin, but no less real to him at the moment than it would have been had he possessed solid evidence to support it--he was seized with a sudden terror that Liz might have, must have used the documents to start her fire, as he hadn’t seen her collect anything which would have made good tinder. Instead of asking her about it--for surely she would offer a denial-- he struggled to his feet, sick at the thought of the thing, nearly fell into the fire before catching himself against one of the low-swept boughs of the evergreen, remaining upright and picking his way carefully, stumbling, dizzy, out from beneath the tree and to the spot where they’d left their burdens.

Couldn’t get into the duffel. Its straps were caked with snow and ice, frozen fast. In somewhat of a panic he kicked at the thing, wanting to free the straps of their snow but succeeding only in dumping himself face-first in the snow, panting for air and hooking an elbow over the partially buried bag like a drowning man seeking to stay afloat, pulling himself up, face out of the snow and resting exhaustedly on the bag. Figured he’d better get back to the fire but he didn’t want to go, not until he’d devised some way to get into the icy duffel and check on that envelope. Had to make sure it was still there. Should have kept it on his person, where it would have been safer. Liz came then, talked him back to his feet and led him--unwilling, quest unfulfilled, but too weary and numbed to put up much resistance--once more into the fire’s circle of warmth, made him drink some honey-sweetened tea and tried to impress upon him the importance of sharing the small meal she had prepared, but the message didn’t seem to be reaching him.

“Eat, Einar. It’s what you need. Will had his snack, I’m having mine…it’s time for you to do the same, and then we can go on up the hill, if that’s what you’re so anxious to do. Come on. I brought some of the Nutella from Bud and Susan, and you can just have that, if you’d like…”

Einar still didn’t seem to hear her. “Did you burn it? I wasn’t through reading and I didn’t want you to burn it.”

“Burn…what? What are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about. You know.”

“The papers Kilgore left for you?”

“I knew you did. Why’d you do it?”

“No! I didn’t say that. I didn’t do anything. Why would I burn your papers? I would never. I haven’t touched them.”

A skeptical look from Einar as he shook his head, stared in the direction of the ice-crusted duffel and tried again to make sense of the thing, skepticism slowly replaced by abashment as he realized that yes, of course she was telling the truth, would have no more been able to access those documents just then than he was and surely wouldn’t destroy them in that way, even had she been able to gain access, and he mumbled an apology, accepted the food she was trying so hard to push on him. Meal finished, everyone warmer after their time beside the fire and out of the wind Einar was ready to complete the climb up to the cabin but no sooner had he risen and got himself hitched back up to the duffel than it became clear to Liz, if not immediately to him, that they were going no further that day.

Struggling, straining, he finally managed to get the thing moving, covered five or six feet before falling forward in the snow, unconscious. Had Liz been the one needing hauling, her life in danger or that of the little one, he would no doubt have found somewhere within him the resources to make the thing work as he had done with Kilgore, but that was not the situation, and with the extreme exertion of that last rescue mission only days behind him, he was all through. Liz let him be for the moment, built up the fire. It would be a difficult night, but not an impossible one, and in the morning, they would head home.

28 March, 2012

28 March 2012

Despite the exhaustion that had begun seriously dragging at his movements as he unearthed the cache, Einar had little trouble making it up the slope, moving swiftly, automatically and having to stop several times early on and wait for Liz to catch up. Each time she tried to speak with him, get some sense of how he was doing with the climb but always, waiting only to see that she appeared not to be having too much of a struggle, herself, he would be moving again before she quite reached him. Climbing, hauling, heavy load a comfort, somehow, Einar was quite oblivious to the painful abrasion of the straps as they dug into his already raw and injured hips, to the progressive weakness in his legs and the chill that was once more making serious inroads on his body and to nearly everything else, too, as he plowed ahead up the hill, breaking trail for Liz. Storm continuing, the wind obliterated their tracks minutes after they were made whenever they crossed a more open area, the process taking place more slowly beneath the timber but still providing them assurance that they wouldn’t be leaving sign which would later be picked up. At the willows Einar stopped again, waiting once more for Liz to make up the distance between them, but this time he didn’t hurry off right away, seeing in her face something that looked like distress and concerned for the baby.

Relieved that she didn’t have to take off immediately chasing Einar again--she was growing greatly concerned for him, knowing that it had been all he’d been able to manage simply staying on his feet and awake not too long ago as they retrieved the cache, and not wanting him to run himself into the ground, drop unconscious in the snow and leave her with a real dilemma on her hands, which she knew he was perfectly capable of doing, even under more normal circumstances--Liz crouched against a snow-covered boulder took hold of one of his hauling lines lest he change his mind and start moving again. “Will’s getting pretty restless. I need to stop and feed him for just a minute, but if you need to go on ahead to the cabin…”

“I’ll wait.” And then, because Liz was staring at him in the strangest way and beginning to make him rather uncomfortable, he added, “those chutes giving you any trouble?”

Liz, in the process of loosening the wide buckskin strap that sat beneath Will and kept him in his pouch, did not answer right away, first pulling one of her arms in beneath the parka and sliding the little one around to her front so he could enjoy the meal he’d been so anxiously awaiting. “No, they’re pretty easy to haul, except when the timber gets thick and they hang up. That’s why I keep getting behind. I have to stop and free them. How are you managing? With your bag being so much bigger and heavier, I don’t see how you’re keeping up that speed!”

“Don’t know. Think I’m just pulling down anything the load gets hung up on. Thought it would help if I broke trail but I can go behind if you like, help free the chutes when they catch on things.”

“I’m getting along just fine. This is working. And whatever you’re doing must be working, too, because we’re making really, really good time and we should be back home pretty soon where we can get a fire going, dry out and get a better look at the other things in that bag… Einar! Are you Ok? Can you hear me?” Which it seemed he couldn’t, having slumped stiffly forward against a tree, knees locked and arms drawn in against his sides, looking strange enough that Liz might well have burst out laughing, had she not been so concerned. Unable to get a response from him she eased Will--full and satisfied after his little snack--onto her back again and went to him, but by that time he had fallen on his side in the snow, jaw clamped, eyes wide and staring and body so stiff that when she took one of his arms, she couldn’t raise it. Not wanting to hurt him she backed off then, scared, knowing he was likely experiencing an incident similar to those which had grabbed hold of him previously in the tunnel and hoping it would be over as quickly as those had seemed to be, for she didn’t like to see him lying there in the snow, but knew of no way to safely move him. When the thing seemed to her to be going on a bit longer than she had remembered she did for him the only thing she knew to do, fishing a container of honey out of the small pack he carried and--his jaw still clamped shut--getting some of it onto his teeth where she could only hope some might work its way in where it could do some good.

Some minutes passed before Einar began coming back to full awareness and could move his limbs again, rubbing sore arms and getting groggily to his feet, turning on Liz with wild eyes when she touched him and then trying, situation coming fuzzily into focus, to cover his confusion with an apologetic grin.

“Sorry about…delay. Ready to get moving?”

She wasn’t sure. Knew what had happened, limits of his physical endurance long ago reached and passed on the haul up from the basin but his mind overriding any recognition he might otherwise have possessed of the fact, driving him to continue until he could propel himself no farther and she debated, silently, seeking guidance, whether she ought to urge him to go on at that point, continue the climb and see if hopefully they could reach the cabin before his strength gave out entirely, or if they would be better off recognizing that such time had already come and gone, and making camp right where they were for the night. Camping would be risky business, lightly-equipped as they had come. Liz was certain of being able to see herself and Will through even so stormy a night as the coming one promised to be with little difficulty, but she was less sure about Einar, especially should he take a notion to go wandering off in the storm to read more of Kilgore’s file or ponder its contents alone in the snow, as she knew he would very likely feel compelled to do. Not good odds. Not looking good either way.

Einar wasn’t waiting for her answer, though, already moving though the snow but then he came up short against his burden, and the thing was heavy. Didn’t want to move, and hauling with his hands at the traces, he couldn’t fathom how he’d been managing to lug it up the steep, snowy slope of rock and timber which lay behind him. No matter. He would manage it, one way or another. Would have to. Leaned forward, letting his weight come up against that of the bag but it weighed more than he did, wouldn’t budge. Einar found himself frustrated, puzzled, couldn’t remember too much about the past hours since leaving the basin but knew he had somehow been managing to move that bag, and must find somewhere within him the ability to do so once more. Seeing his struggle, Liz had her answer. They needed to stop, if not for the entire night, at least long enough to get a good fire going, warm up and have a meal. Perhaps that short respite would give him the strength he needed to complete the walk, so they could face the night secure in the cabin. She had to hope.

· · · ·

Susan leading, breaking trail as Bud struggled with his injured leg, the honeymooning couple picked their way gingerly down the steep, storm-swept slope, relief showing in both their faces as finally their descent took them to a spot where the timber became a bit taller, heavier, providing some shelter once more from the crushing, killing force of that wind. All plans for meeting Roger and his plane delayed indefinitely by the weather, a silent consensus developed between the pair as they hiked, steps taking them in the direction of the cabin.

Comments from 27 March

Philip said…
Thanks Chris!

Great read!


Always good to see you here, Philip! Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said…

Nothing like pulling the pin and then walking away there Bud.


Kilgore fully intended to be there, but probably would have done this even had he known that he wouldn’t be.

Nancy1340 said…
Hopefully this will be helpful to E.

Hard to know.

27 March, 2012

27 March 2012

After a few minutes of sitting near the fire and gulping Liz’s hastily-made tea of raspberry leaves and honey Einar was beginning to come round just a bit and regain some use of his hands, thankful but frustrated at having allowed himself to sink so far into a dangerous hypothermic haze without at all intending to do so.

Looks like you’re not quite as sharp as you might like to think here, Einar. Got to be more careful. She hadn’t been here, you might have just kept heading in that direction--sure all the while that things were going just fine, of course--until you didn’t have any way to know what was what, and you sunk down in the snow and went to sleep. You know that’s how it happens, and to think you’re immune from having it happen to you, just because you’re used to living out here and for the most part consider yourself to be on friendly terms with this terrain and weather…well, that’s just plain foolishness, and it’s gonna get you killed one of these days, if you don’t take a little more care. Just a little, mind you. Not too much. Now. Kilgore said something about stashing a couple of white chutes around here somewhere, and I don’t recall seeing anything like that, yet. Need to find them, both to get them out of the area and because they ought to prove mighty useful to us, up there.

With which he was on his feet, far more steady and wider awake than he’d been, before, scouring the area until he came across two snow-covered lumps situated beneath a fir, thinking them a bit out of place and finding, when he checked, the two hastily-stowed snow-white canopies. Good find.

Time to turn his attention to the cache, itself, and when Einar pulled it some distance from the fire and looked inside--still not quite trusting, not wanting to do the initial opening in Liz’s immediate presence--a slow smile creased his face at the note Kilgore had pinned to the outside the zippered soft case which was the first thing he encountered. I know this bright chicken poo green-yellow isn’t the right color for wintertime in the high country, but spring is coming so I figured I’d better just leave it as is. A little peek inside the zippered soft case confirmed Einar’s suspicions as to the nature of the gift, and he was grinning as he zipped it back up, began a cursory inspection of the bag’s remaining contents. Liz could contain her curiosity no longer.

“What is it? What did he leave for you?”

“Old friend of mine, right arm of the Free World and one of the most reliable thirty caliber battle rifles ever built. Must be one he brought back with him, from the looks of it. Still got its original rough two tone camo job. Kilgore’s got the thing--and everything else, too--so well packed that I think considering the storm and all this snow, we’ll be best off just leaving it all intact for the haul up the slope, and opening things up at the cabin. This bag ought to drag pretty well. I can handle it, if you’ll haul the chutes.”

“Oh yes, I can do that,” and indeed she could, unable to strap the parachutes to her back because of little Will but supposing she ought not have too much trouble dragging them behind her, and to that end she began rolling them up, anxious to be moving again and glad beyond words that Einar had decided to wait on unpacking and sorting through the cache until they had once more regained the safe, sheltered space of the cabin. She had been dreading the hours such a task might require of them out there in the freezing wind and snow, the toll it would inevitably take on Einar, he most likely quite unable to realize his danger, focused as he would be on the contents of the cache. Most of all though, she was relieved that whatever “surprise” Kilgore had left for Einar--documents of some sort, from the sound of it, and for some reason she found herself really dreading their discovery--would wait, as well. Or so she had allowed herself to hope. A bit prematurely, it appeared, as Einar, ready to cinch and strap the bag closed for the trip, had paused, catching sight of something else inside and loosening the ties, pulling it out, shielding the large brown envelope with his body to prevent its being covered in snow and removing from it a sheaf of typed pages, yellowed around the edges with age.

Glancing over the documents Einar appeared to Liz as if he’d been kicked in the gut, turned away from her and stalked stiffly over beneath a spruce where he crouched against its trunk, arms around his knees, all drawn in on himself, reading… For a time Liz wisely left him to his own devices, watching as he sat there scrubbing a hand repeatedly across his face and trembling as he looked at page after page, but finally she went to him, sat down nearby and tried to catch his eye. He wouldn’t look at her. She wanted to put a hand on his knee, but could see that it would probably be a very bad idea to touch him in any way, just then. Better try words, instead.

“What is it? What are you reading?”

Silence for a long time, and then he answered, voice all strained and strange, barely his own. “It’s my…it’s the notes from my debriefing after I was in the jungle…”

“After you escaped?”

He nodded, went on reading for a minute before he stopped, staring off into the timber.

“I didn’t remember this. A lot of it… tried over the years to piece together the details, but there were always gaps, big blank spots in my memory…”

Watching him, trembling hands and anguish in his eyes, Liz could not help but think, with a bit of possibly-unwarranted resentment towards Kilgore, that perhaps it would have been better for us all had those spots remained blank…

After a few more minutes she took his arm, tried to get him to his feet but he didn’t respond, did not even seem to know she was there. Gently she shook him, attempting again to get him to rise. “Hey. Can you finish reading that up at the cabin? This wind doesn’t seem to be dying down at all, and I really need to be getting Will home now…”

Einar looked up at her in startled confusion as if jarred from a trance of some sort, rose shakily and laid a gentle hand on little Will’s sleeping form where it bulged comfortably beneath Liz’s parka, breathing, his breaths gradually slowing to match those of the resting child. “Yeah…yeah, I can do that.”

26 March, 2012

26 March 2012

Between the blowing, blinding snow that accosted them there at the edge of the timber and the significant accumulation which had taken place since Kilgore’s stashing of the thing, it took Einar and Liz a fair amount of time to locate the cache site, and took Einar a good while longer to prepare the cache, itself, for freeing from the snow. Cautious despite his having come to trust Kilgore, Einar wouldn’t let Liz and the baby anywhere near the cache at first, warning her off to wait for him beneath a distant tree which was shielded from the location by a large granite boulder and creeping close to the thing on his stomach, reassuringly insignificant weight spread evenly as he went. Inching his way forward until he was near enough the thing to reach, he began the slow, meticulous process of brushing the snow from atop the white nylon of the bag, continuing until he’d brought to the surface a point to which he could securely attach a cord.

Rolling slightly to the side and shoving numbed hands against his bare stomach he waited for them to warm a bit, sweating despite the chill that seemed to creep more deeply into his bones with every minute that passed lying there in the snow. Good enough. He tied the cord in place, gingerly retreating the way he had come until, enough distance covered, he let out a great sigh and rolled to his feet. A bit of a search, then, as he sought the right tree, found it in a smooth-barked fir around which he bent the cord that he’d trailed from the cache--extra leverage; knew he’d be needing it--wrapped the free end of the thing about his hips, checked to be sure Liz was still in her safe spot behind the granite boulder, and threw himself to the ground beside the tree.
The bag moved, sliding a foot or two beneath the snow but not surfacing, and Einar got to his feet, tried again. Put more force behind it, this time. Bag rolled, flipping out from beneath its remaining cover of snow and landing some two feet from its original location, and Einar found himself somewhat reassured at the resulting lack of a major explosion. Always a good start. Rubbing a sore hip and hobbling a bit as he made his way through the snow he approached the thing once more, this time using a long stick to lever it over to its other side.

Time, it seemed, to take a look inside, but first he wanted to move the bag a bit further from the openness of the meadow, a bit uncomfortable with his proximity to that space despite the ongoing storm. Trouble was, but the time he’d got the cord wrapped about his hips once more and was ready to begin hauling, he had grown stiff and so cold from the long period of near-immobility that he could barely keep himself on his feet, let alone hope to effectively drag that bag through the snow. Liz, peeking out from behind her rocky hiding place, saw his difficulty, wanted to go to him but had given her word that she would stay there in the safety of the boulder until he gave her the “all clear.” Which he might have been just about ready to consider doing by that time, had he been thinking of it, but he was not. Was really just trying very hard to remain upright and fight off a wave of dizziness that had seemed to come out of nowhere to try and knock him to the ground, his own increasingly violent shivering only adding to the confusion. Get it together, Einar. You need to finish clearing that bag, take a look inside and make sure it hasn’t been…tampered with since Kilgore… Fell to his knees, would have fallen farther had it not been for the cord wrapped tautly around his middle, and for a minute he hung there, head down, exhausted but then he was on his feet again, moving, dragging, bag coming along with him until he got it to what he considered a reasonable distance from the meadow.

Safe. Could look inside, now. About which he felt reasonably safe, as well, as it was obvious to him by then that if anyone had touched the bag, they had to have done it very soon after it was buried by Kilgore, as many wind-drifted layers of snow as had formed over the thing. Which someone could have done, but not likely without the tracker’s knowledge and complicity, as they would either have had to make their landing in the basin shortly after he made his own, or meet him up there. Not likely, either one of them. Tracker would have warned him. Dragging at the bag’s cord he got it rolled beneath a big spruce where the snow had accumulated less deeply. There was, in fact, a bit of a pit, a wide tree well on one side of the spruce’s trunk, and into this he rolled the duffel, knowing the high walls of snow would help a bit to break the wind. Which would be a very good thing indeed, and coming just in time, if he wanted to retain the use of his hands.

Ok. Open up the cache. Take a look. Then if everything seems alright and you’ve still got all your fingers and toes…well, as many toes as you had to start with, at least…you can let Liz know that it’s safe to come out from behind that rock, because I’m sure she’s pretty nearly as curious as you are to see what’s in here. Couldn’t do it, though, fingers too numbed and insensible to work the strap-buckles, even after an extended time pressed to his stomach. Not going to get any better with him crouching there, of that he was becoming pretty certain, none of it was going to get any better and really, he’d better be up and moving if he wanted any chance at reversing the swiftly advancing cold-haze that seemed to have begun getting its claws into him just a bit too tightly over the past several minutes. Made it two steps before he went to his knees, brought up short by the cord that remained bound about his hips from his hauling of the duffel and he freed himself with some difficulty, stumbled clumsily in Liz’s direction. She was saying something, asking, it seemed, if it was alright for her to come out from her safe spot behind the rock now, and he admired her for taking him seriously about the potential danger and the need for her to remain there until he said otherwise, wished he was able to get the words out to tell her that yes, it’s fine to come out now, but when he tried to speak nothing really happened, and he figured he must have been out in that wind for just a bit too long. Liz got the message, anyway, interpreting his nods to mean yes and hoping she was right, hurrying to him.

He nearly fell then and Liz caught him, thought he was beginning to look pretty badly chilled, checked, alarmed that he was so cold to the touch, even beneath his parka where the wind could not reach him. She rubbed his back, shoulders, trying to get some warmth into him--the mere fact that he stood there and allowed the attempts alarmed her even more; it was not at all like him--but her efforts didn’t seem to be doing much good. They needed a fire, and quickly.

Einar wanted to object, not liking the idea of starting a fire down near the wide open expanse of the basin floor, even in such a storm as they were currently experiencing, but he knew there was, for all practical purposes, almost no risk in doing so, and with that in mind couldn’t deny Liz something he knew she, and the baby, might need. Temporarily he abandoned the duffel, searching instead for bits of dry firewood as Liz stomped out a spot beneath a close grouping of firs, putting down a wide strip of bark from a nearby dead tree to keep the new fire out of contact with the snow. With Einar dragging over a snowy log and setting it up as a hasty windbreak Liz--whose hands were in far better shape than Einar’s, warm, almost, and certainly flexible enough to strike sparks--arranged the handful of tiny, dry sticks he’d managed to collect, and soon had a fire going. Knowing his initial offering of sticks had been woefully small Einar continued for a time stumbling about in search of more, breaking off a dry, dead branch here and kicking at the leaning remains of a long-dead aspen there in his quest for more firewood, and he might have kept this up for a very long time had not Liz left the little fire as soon as she was certain it would continue to live, gone to him and taken his arm.

“It’s enough. You’ve got enough, there. Come sit with me now and get warm, have some tea and then we can see what Bud and Susan left for us.”

Comments from 25 March

Nancy1340 said…

Thanks for reading!

Philip said…
Chris, A Snow Cat!!!! for a cat???? YES!

however, its too late, the snow is gone, leaving me to find a Marsh Land around my little island of concrete. Shhh, don't tell Al Gore, he would make it a sanctuary, and I'd have to ~Leaf~, like those in Autumn.....

Good chapters of late.... keeping me intrigued, and ready for the next one.

wish I could watch the U-TUBE's above, my connection is marginal....

philip & Miss Cleo, walking in the Wet Lands.....

Well, I guess it’s good you don’t need the Snow Cat for Miss Cleo now, at least!

Sorry your connection isn't better, but glad you're able to stop by and read, anyway!

FrRichard said…
Thanks for the video and song! I have a good friend who is from Rhodesia. His parents moved there from GB long time ago. He fought in the war back then. Now is a Missionary in Africa.

God bless your friend, and his current work as a missionary. I am so sorry for the loss of his country.

25 March, 2012

25 March 2012

Everything ready to go Einar and Liz banked the fire, dropped a handful of hot rocks into the water barrel in the hopes of finding its contents at least partially thawed still upon their return, and slid over it the heavy spruce slab that would help keep in the heat. Muninn had been watching restlessly their preparations, shifting from one foot to the other on his perch and chortling uneasily to Einar whenever he passed by wondering, no doubt, what the two humans were doing getting ready to leave just then, in the middle of a heavy storm. Watching the bird, Liz could not help but think that the kindest thing would surely be to leave him in the cabin when they left, where he would at least be sheltered from the wind and would have access to liquid water, but Einar shook his head when she mentioned the idea.

“No, this fella’s going to be better off outside. I know we plan to be back tonight or tomorrow at the latest, but these things have a way of being somewhat uncertain, you know, especially in heavy weather like this, and I’d hate to have him stuck inside here with no way out as the he ran out of water or something, if we end up being delayed for whatever reason. He’ll be fine outside. Was made for this sort of weather, grew up in it and it’s only been in these last couple of months, really, that he’s been getting all soft and spoiled and turning into a house bird. Ought to do him some good to ride out one storm in his natural habitat, remind him what life’s really like in this harsh old world, and keep him from getting too spoiled.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You’re probably right about him needing to be outside in case we end up delayed for some reason, but as for him not getting too spoiled, I think I’ve heard you use that argument about yourself a time or two to explain why you’ve got to spend hours sitting out in a storm without your parka or sleep all curled up on the floor from time to time without the benefit of blankets or hides or anything, and I don’t know that I’m buying it.”

“Aw, you should have seen me before you came along! It wasn’t just ‘occasionally’ that I slept on the floor without blankets, it was every night, and I did it for years and years, just about froze myself a few times, too. Which is the only reason I’m still alive right now, I’m pretty sure. Pays to toughen yourself up, get used to putting yourself through worse than this old world can throw at you, so it’ll all be pretty routine when it does its worst. Works for me.”

“It may have at one time, but right now…oh, we’ve already gone over all of this, and more than once. And what am I doing, anyway, sitting here comparing my husband to a wild creature that really is perfectly suited to spending his entire life out in the storms of winter, if need be?”

“Because your husband is a wild creature, of course. That’s why. Now let’s put the bird out where he belongs, and get started!”

“Alright, I’m ready for it. Just as long as you’ll promise to wear your parka and not sleep out in the snow, if we end up having to spend a night down there…”

“Hey, I don’t even need to sleep out in the snow anymore. Here lately I can freeze half to death sitting right in front of the fire, with no effort at all! Saves me a lot of trouble, you know, a lot of effort…” And he laughed--really finding it funny, not thinking that she might see things a different way--but Liz was shaking her head in exasperation.

“And you think that’s a good thing? That your body has got to the point where it can’t produce enough heat to keep itself reasonably warm anymore, even sitting near the fire? Quit laughing. It’s not funny. Not at all. And not the least bit reassuring, either, with us heading out into a major snowstorm. I hope you’re not planning to take advantage of that fact on our little excursion to the basin.”

“Of course not. And no, I won’t sleep out in the snow if we have to spend the night down there. I don’t have the benefit of two or three layers of built-in down and feathers like the raven does, and I do want to come back up here with you and little Will, when it’s all over. Somebody’s got to haul that cache…”

Liz gave him a smile, a preemptory shake of the rabbit stick, and they were off, Einar shooing Muninn ahead of them through the tunnel and Will already fast asleep on Liz’s back. The raven, seeing the state of things outside, protested, tried to get back inside but soon gave up beating his wings against the closed door, made a brief attempt to follow the departing trio but soon abandoned that effort, also, buffeted by the wind and driven to seek shelter. The tunnel itself was, of course, always open, would have provided significant shelter from the wind but Muninn was not the sort to roost on the ground when trees were available, and he was soon comfortably settled amongst the heavy boughs of a nearby spruce, feathers fluffed and beak tucked beneath a wing ready to ride out the storm.

Liz, who really had looked forward to getting out after her extended stay in the cabin with the new baby, was somewhat taken aback at the strength of the storm as they made their way into the timber below the cabin and started the descent, trees only somewhat blocking the wind’s force and their boughs groaning and singing above their heads as they plodded through the deep drifts that had already been formed by the fury of the wind, new snowfall amounting to no more than an inch or two, but rapidly building up.

Einar found himself really struggling after a time, cold, shaking and dangerously near falling flat on his face in the snow, one way or another, though he had made a point of eating everything Liz had given him that morning before taking leave of the cabin. It hadn’t been enough, not enough food, not nearly enough time having passed since the incredibly draining work of rescuing Kilgore after his fall, and he could feel the tight, squeezing tentacles of impending exhaustion wrapping themselves increasingly tightly about his middle. Tried to no avail gulping water from the bottle he kept tucked warmly away from the freezing wind beneath his parka, nibbling on a bit of pemmican but none of it seemed to be having any noticeable effect, and the expedition might well have ended for him right there, not a quarter mile from the cabin, had it not been for Liz. She was watching him, leaving the trail he had broken to pull up along side him and squint through the blowing snow at the hard lines of his face, trying to get a glimpse of his eyes to see how he was doing and he knew it, began working so hard not to let Liz notice his trouble that after a time he really was very nearly able to ignore it, himself. Because of which the two of them made good progress and after no more than a few hours’ travel, punctuated by several quick meal stops and one under-the-parka diaper change for little Will, they were approaching the spot Kilgore had described in so much detail as being the location where he had concealed the cache.

Comments from 24 March

Nancy1340 said…

Very neat! A video showing how a modern version of the Amauti is used to carry a baby. Thanks!

While we’re at it, here’s the song Einar has had stuck in his head since Bud Kilgore’s visit. The things you can find on You Tube...

It’s a Long Way to Mukumbura:

And why not another?

Rhodesians Never Die:

24 March, 2012

24 March 2012

Bud and Susan had decided to go up, hoping they might somehow make the meeting place before Roger’s second planned pass the following morning and hoping also that the storm would have quieted sufficiently for him to land, by that time. When they began having to hang onto the small, twisted forms of wind-bent firs--their tops, only, poking out from beneath sometimes hip-deep drifts of snow--just to avoid being knocked off their feet and pressed into the mountainside by the wind, they began seriously questioning the wisdom of their decision. Though dressed and equipped for the weather they found themselves really struggling to make much progress between Bud’s injury and the incredible force of the wind, which seemed increasingly bent on ripping them from the mountain the more closely they approached the ridge, and sending them airborne with the furious streamers of snow and ice crystals that already trailed far out into the sky. Seeing through the near-blinding swirl of white that the trees appeared to run out ahead of them, wide open slope yawning menacingly in the scouring gale, Susan stopped, secured herself to a tree and grabbed hold of Bud’s coat.

“Stop for a minute. We need to talk about this.”

Kilgore turned, sat down heavily in the snow and brushed some of the accumulated, wind-driven snow from his balaclava. “Do we?”

“I think we need to go back down! This is turning into a real blizzard up here, and we’re running out of trees.”

“Yep. Looks like we’re gonna have to catch Roger some other time. This is madness, up here.”

Together they turned, started back down in search of heavier timber in which to ride out the storm, Susan tremendously relieved that Bud had put up no protest and Bud simply struggling to stay on his feet. The leg was becoming a real burden, paining him quite significantly now with each step and he was sure its swelling had worsened significantly on the climb. Wished they could simply dig in right where they were, wait for the storm to end and then finish the climb up to meet Roger, but he knew their position on that slope was highly precarious at best. Needed to get down to a place where things would be less steep, less avalanche-prone as the wind-packed snow continued to deepen, and gritting his teeth against the hurt, he followed Susan, who not only seemed glad of the change in direction, but seemed to have a very definite destination in mind.

· · · ·

Einar appeared more energetic than Liz had seen him in a good while, animated, joyful, even, as he packed for the walk down the basin, and as he had been struggling so in recent days simply to remain conscious and carry out his daily tasks, the sudden liveliness struck her as somewhat unusual. She hoped nothing was wrong. Which it wasn’t, really, Einar simply anxious to be heading down to the basin and relieved almost beyond measure that the storm had come to end his enforced waiting. The longer he’d sat around the cabin re-hashing Bud Kilgore’s words the more anxious he had become to discover the nature of whatever document the tracker had so strangely included in the cache, theories on its possible subject and contents so filling his mind that he had been tempted a time or two simply to plan a nighttime excursion to the site before too long, storm or no storm, to settle the question. So it was with a tremendous sense of relief that he prepared to set out with Liz and their son to do the same, and he sang under his breath as he worked, gathering a few items of warm clothing, food and other essentials to take on the expedition, but leaving his pack mostly empty to save on weight in the knowledge that he’d have a major job on his hands, hauling the contents of the cache back up that hill. Liz thought she recognized his song.

“What’s that you’re singing? It sounds like the same thing you and Bud sang together, and I’d never heard it before.”

“Was I singing?’

“Yes…sure sounded like it. Unless Muninn has suddenly learned a bunch of words, and started stringing them together in song!”

“Huh. Wouldn’t be surprised if he starts doing that, one of these days. I know they’re capable of mimicking speech. That was me, though, and no, I don’t guess you would have ever heard that one before. Just an old marching tune from my days in the bundu of Rhodesia, informal marching tune, I guess you’d have to say, because I’m pretty sure no one ever sanctioned it, but it was one you heard the guys singing, a lot of times. Based off the old song about how “It’s a “Long Way to Tipperary,” only we substituted “Mukumbura” for Tipperary, because it was, indeed, a long way from just about anywhere to the town of Mukumbura! Anyhow, I’ll quitsinging it. Just got stuck in my head while Kilgore was here, I guess.”

“Oh, you don’t have to stop. It really seemed to make you happy, while he was here. Like you were sharing some good memories.”

“You know, it’s a funny thing. A lot of the memories from those years really are good ones. Sure, it was pure…well, unpleasantness…out there a lot of times in the bush with all that was going on, but I was there standing with a great group of guys, and we were fighting for something. For their homes and their entire way of life, and it was a cause…well, I was proud to be there with them. Was one we could have won, for sure, and were, until…well, I’ve told you the story of some of the treachery behind how all of that ended. Powerful men far away pulling the strings like they seem to do so many times, and that was the end of it. But yeah, a lot of good memories from those days, and I guess having Kilgore around tends to bring it all back, just a little.”

“Do you think that’s the “surprise” he left for you down at the cache? Something to do with your days in Rhodesia?”

“No, I do not.”

Which was the end of that, Liz seeing that he plainly didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, and she got into her parka, preparing little Will for the trip.

Comments from 22 March

Nancy1340 said…
Lil' Will might get a little chilly when it comes time to move him from the pouch to mama's feeding station.


That’s one of the wonderful things about the Inuit Amauti baby carrying parka. By pulling one arm inside the parka and loosening the strap beneath the pouch that holds the baby, the mother can slide him around to the front, and do the feeding without ever exposing the little one, or herself, to the weather.

23 March, 2012

23 March 2012

No chapter tonight, but I'll be back with another tomorrow.

Thank you all for reading!

22 March, 2012

22 March 2012

Scattered firewood collected and stacked once more in his arms Einar finished the quick walk back to the cabin, piling some of the stuff against one wall of the tunnel for easy access during the storm and hauling the rest in to its spot beside the stove, quickly glancing away when Liz gave him an inquisitive look that told him she surely must have heard the clatterment caused by his little spill, must be wondering about it. Didn’t especially want to go there. Change the subject. Which he did, but to no avail. She already knew; he could see it in her eyes. One more reason to stare at the floor. It’s usually safer just to stare at the floor. Or the ceiling. Lots of interesting patterns on the ceiling, paths one can follow with one’s eyes, the meanderings of long-deceased borer-beetles in the wood of a fir, leaving paths that stand out more yellow than the surrounding wood, beautiful in their own way and leaving some of the beams to somewhat resemble driftwood, smooth but subtly nuanced and… Liz was staring. Expected him to say something, apparently. So he did.

“Storm’s coming in. It’s already starting to snow out there, and the wind’s really ripping along the ridge. Looks like we may be in for a big one.”

“I thought it felt like the weather was really starting to change. I sure hope Bud and Susan got where they were going. Do you think Roger already came and picked them up?”

Einar shook his head. “Really doubt it. They’d have been doing real well to cover half the distance up to their meeting spot yesterday, bad as Kilgore’s leg was looking. Sure, he had lots of energy starting out, but that sort of thing can wear a fellow out real badly, especially in the deep snow. And even if they made it and were waiting, I don’t think the plane’s come yet. We’d have heard it from here. And it’s not likely at all to come now, not with the way the wind’s ripping snow up off that ridge in huge long streamers…Kiesl’s one crazy pilot, but not even he would be real likely to attempt that. Looks like they’ve got themselves some waiting to do, up there.”

“It’s going to be a cold, windy wait….”

He nodded. No doubt about that. “Figure I might as well go down after that cache today, while this storm lasts.”

Liz didn’t immediately respond, listening to the wind as it finally reached their sheltered basin, rushing through acre upon acre of lithe, flexible evergreens with a sound akin to a mountain river at high water and slamming into the side of the cabin with such force that the logs creaked. Thought Einar was, quite frankly, something bordering on crazy for wanting to go so soon after his last trip and with his legs still barely able to support him, but saw little point in mentioning the fact. Had a better idea. “How are you going to get it back up here? Can I come help?”

Could she? Sure she could, had a good snug way to carry the baby and his food went with her wherever she might go, always warmed to the perfect temperature and ready to serve, so no problem there, but even still, he didn’t want her along. Worried that if anything happened to him--which seemed not altogether unlikely, considering the difficulty he was still having in getting around, remaining conscious at critical moments--she might put herself and the baby in danger trying to help remedy the situation. If he was to end up face down in the snow, he’d really much rather do it by himself, thanks very much, with his family safe and warm in the cabin until he could make his way back to them. Then again, he couldn’t exactly ask her to remain housebound if she was ready to get out and about again. He shrugged, wished he had a good answer.

“Plan on hauling it up, just like I did Kilgore. Gonna rig a better harness this time, though. Wide leather straps, and pad them with rabbit furs or something, in the front. That paracord really tore me up.”

“Yes, I know it did. Bone was showing, on one of your hips. The cuts it gave you really haven’t even started to heal, and that’s one reason why I think you really ought to consider waiting on this whole thing, but if you’re going, Will and I would like to come along. If nothing else, I could help pull sometimes. The way the parka’s set up, I could both pull and carry him at the same time. And I’d be there to help the load over fallen trees and things when it gets hung up. It would save time and effort, both. And give me a little peace of mind. I really don’t want to be waiting for you up here in this storm, wondering what’s going on out there…please.”

“Lizzie, you know there are times when I just need to do something myself, go out and test myself against…whatever it may be…but if you want to come along on this one, sure. I know you’re probably itching to get out again, yourself, after the birth and lying low with the little one and all, but you got to promise me that you won’t let anything get in the way of your looking out for him. He’s got to come first, and if helping to haul the load starts getting in the way of that, you got to let me do it alone. Ok?”

“Einar, of course! You really don’t even have to ask.” She sat down beside him, pulled out the single wolverine claw that he’d given her to wear around her neck. “I’m a mama wolverine, you know, and nothing comes between the mama wolverine and her little one. Nothing at all, not even his father, so you’d better be good and sure that you’re ready for this little excursion, because I’m certainly not carrying you both back up here!”

Though a bit surprised at the forcefulness of her assertion, Einar was glad. Hoped she’d stick to it if need be, but determined not to make necessary such a test, if it could be at all avoided. Which meant, amongst other things, getting a few good meals in him that day. Was still having a great deal of difficulty with his digestion and with avoiding dehydration in the wake of each fresh bout of those troubles, but*figured the food must be doing him some measure of good, giving him a bit of energy, at least, if not yet much else. Speaking of food, Liz’s breakfast was ready, and eating it seemed a good place to start. He picked up little Will, who had wakened and was beginning to fuss, and joined her beside the stove to share the morning meal as outside the wind picked up and a heavier snow began to fall.

Comments from 21 March

Anonymous said...

Thanks FOTH:

Einar should set out this storm and wait for the next. They have plenty of supplies at the cabin. Would there be a downside to Liz going along? She seems to be recovering nicely from the birthing.


Liz is doing well and would likely have little trouble, herself, with that fairly short walk. Einar probably won’t want her to come though, for a number of reasons. But in this case, may not really be able to prevent her.

Anonymous said…

"a quick breakfast of energy bars, oranges and chocolate" I doubt that if Susan had oranges with her that she would have been able to keep any for herself instead of giving them all to Liz

Oh, Susan would have left everything like that with Liz, but Bud packed his own bag, and would have wanted to make sure his bride had some good things to eat for the hike out.

Nancy1340 said…

Thanks FOTH Mighty good chapter.

Thanks for reading!

21 March, 2012

21 March 2012

After a somewhat restless night spent tossing, slipping and sliding on the most level bit of ground they’d been able to find on that mountainside--not terribly level; they’d been in no danger of sliding away down the slope, but had faced a continual struggle when it came to keeping sleeping bags on their pads, making for a less than quiet night--Bud and Susan woke to low, grey skies and the smell of snow in the air. Maintaining a cold camp, they ate a quick breakfast of energy bars, oranges and chocolate without ever leaving their sleeping bags, the keen wind which swept the slopes providing ample motivation to either stay hunkered down or get moving, but making all options in between appear far less than appealing. It was going to storm, and Kilgore did not at all like the idea of being stuck out on that steep, semi-exposed mountainside when the thing hit. At least on the ridge they would be close to the place where Roger was to appear--if and when he could get through the weather--and would be out of the shooting gallery of slides and small avalanches that could well develop in their current location, if the storm ended up dropping enough snow. Then again, if the storm lasted beyond the two day mark after which there was to be a long gap before Roger made his next try, they would probably want to descend significantly and seek out shelter in the heavier timber of the basin or the area surrounding it--or the cabin, even, though he wasn’t sure how Einar might take so soon a re-appearance--rather than existing for a week or more up in those bitterly cold windswept heights. So they had a decision to make, but in either case it was beginning to spit snow, and they needed get on with it.

· · · ·

Einar, too, smelled the snow that morning, making a trip out to the woodshed and pausing to test the air in the tense, apprehensive hush that had fallen over the timber, everything so still that it made the hair stand up on the back of his neck and left him glancing anxiously at the sky, half expecting a chopper or two to burst over the ridge and leave him with nowhere to go, but nothing happened, nothing came, silence, stillness stretching like a compressed spring over the basin, ready to be released. Einar shivered, continued with his wood gathering, hoping Kilgore and his bride had made good time up to the ridge, and were about to be picked up by that plane before the heavy weather really set in. He would, he was fairly certain, be able to hear the plane if not quite to see it, the chosen spot not being too far from their own location in miles, though sitting nearly two thousand feet higher in elevation, and he wondered if some subconscious anticipation of the aircraft’s appearance might explain a bit of the dread he felt that morning, that shimmering, prickling coiled-snake feeling that left him certain something about to strike. Probably not. Was likely only the storm. Weather changes could do that, he’d noted over the years, particularly when they involved a sudden and dramatic shift in pressure, leave him on edge and ready for action, the silence itself seeming so stifling as to be very nearly unbearable and he badly wanting to take off running frantically up the nearest hill, just to work out some of the pent-up energy. This effect, he supposed, must be related in some way to the drive that sent wild creatures out on eating frenzies before major storms and left pastured horses friskily running along fence lines--Muninn certainly seemed to notice the coming change, flying short distances into the timber but returning quickly every time to fly in tight circles far above Einar’s head, rasping his protest into the sky--and it was only natural that humans should be impacted, as well. Only from what he’d observed, most folks didn’t seem to be.

Well. No figuring other people, and no sense standing there too much longer staring up at the deathly still forms of spruce and fir, either, for he knew the wind would be coming soon enough, sweeping down from the heights to blast their little plateau and likely drop a significant amount of fresh snow, too, which meant the time was drawing near for his trip down to the basin, in search of Kilgore’s cache. Already the wind was tearing along the ridge, for he could see the snow being ripped from its edge in great white sheets and streamers, creating conditions, no doubt, in which not even so daring a pilot as Roger Kiesl would be likely to attempt landing a small plane. The couple might well end up spending a very cold and windy few days up on or near that ridge, and though he would have done it almost without a second thought had circumstances required, Einar found himself somewhat concerned at the prospect of anyone else having to do so.

No need to worry. They’ll be fine. Kilgore’s solid and resourceful and Susan…well, she’s a mountain woman, herself, and should know what to do. But still, watching the snow stream off the broken rock where the ridge fell away high above the basin, he could not help being concerned, wishing he might go up and bring them back, let them ride out the storm at the cabin. Not that he really wanted the company. Had, in fact, been greatly enjoying his long, quiet hours alone with Liz and the baby, the last afternoon and evening passing in a sort of slow, comfortable cadence which was quite beyond the confines of his normal experience and which, helping Liz with the little chores of caring for Will, preparing supper with her and carrying on occasional bits of conversation as they worked, he had found tremendously pleasant.

That evening had led into a night every bit as peaceful, his own dreams quiet, beautiful, scenes of his growing son and the soft, brilliantly green-tinted light of spring beneath the whispering aspens replacing the usual chaos and horror which so often marred his nights, and though he’d spent an unfortunate number of the dark hours lying awake trembling and half frozen at the edge of the bed doing his best not to disturb Liz--seemed he simply couldn’t keep warm at night anymore no matter how many hides he burrowed himself beneath, and though the fact didn’t especially disturb him, it did make sleep somewhat difficult at times--he had met the morning with a peace and a still, quiet exultation the likes of which he had seldom known in recent years. It would all pass, surely, was probably simply the product of his exhaustion combined with relief at having the house to themselves again, but for the moment, he was enjoying the respite. Which respite wouldn’t be lasting too much longer at all if he didn’t hurry up and get himself back into the cabin, for Liz was waiting on the firewood, and waiting on him, also, to begin breakfast no doubt, as she had been nearly done with its preparation when he left on his little firewood run. Stacking his arms full with wood he turned and left his post there by the shed, legs already stiff nearly to the point of immobility with the cold and his extended stillness. Just couldn’t be keeping still like that, not anymore, not for so long as he had just done and on his second step he fell, scattering the wood into the snow and ending up flat on his face in the icy, biting whiteness, spitting out hard little clumps of re-frozen snow and--pushing aside the pain, attempting to breathe through it, for his ribs seemed none too pleased with the impact--grinning crazily to himself at the absurdity of it all.

On your feet, you clumsy old fool. Right, both of them at once, pick the wood up and get this snow off of it before it starts melting in and dampening the stuff, because Liz doesn’t want damp wood to cook her breakfast over, now does she? And if you don’t hurry up and get inside it looks like the wood’s gonna be all wet regardless of how quickly you get the snow brushed off, because look at this! It’s starting to snow. Yep, better get in there, have some of that breakfast and then see about that trip down to the basin!

20 March, 2012

20 March 2012

They weren’t going to make it. This much became clear to Susan far before it did to Bud, who was putting every ounce of his energy and focus into moving himself up that steep, snowy slope, and they were making progress, but it was proving tremendously slow, and with the sun beginning to set, they remained far below the ridge’s crest, stuck and struggling in a band of steep, broken rock packed tightly with gnarly, close-growing little firs. The trees, at least, gave Bud something to cling to as he worked on the ascent, a good thing, as his leg had quickly tired with the use and was now all but refusing to support any part of his weight, hard as he might try to force the matter. Though a very determined and stubborn individual, himself, Bud Kilgore lacked Einar’s apparent ability to continue under any and all circumstances pushing his body up to and beyond its limits without any thought of the consequences--or perhaps sometimes even because of them, but that was another matter--and with said consequences in mind, he found himself reducing the pace even further as time went by, in the hopes of sparing the leg additional damage. Just after sunset they stopped, Susan brushing some of the snow from a granite protrusion to make a seat for Bud and pulling out their water bottles. For a while neither of them spoke, simply sitting together as they caught their breath, sipping water and looking out on what could really only be described as an incredible scene, as one by one the basins and valleys below fell into shadow, and were swallowed by the advancing evening.

“Gettin’ late down there. Gonna be late up here pretty soon, too.”

“Yes, it is. I was starting to think about finding a place to camp…what do you think?”

Kilgore rubbed his chin with its weeks’ worth of grey-white stubble, squinted up at the terrain above them, bobbing his head in an attempt to see through the intervening tangle of small trees. “Got to keep climbing through the night if we’re gonna make this meeting with Roger.”

“Do you want to do that?”

“Some mighty rough stuff up here, between these gnarly, grabbing trees and all the little granite bluffs and cliffs and all we keep running across. Could do it in the dark, and we got our headlamps, but it’ll be pretty difficult going. Main concern…” he stopped, took a big gulp of water and accepted the handful of nuts and dried fruit Susan was offering him. “Main concern right now is that as it gets dimmer, I’m gonna be a lot less able to pick routes from a distance, keep to this map Asmundson and I looked over and I may end up leading us out into the open where we’ll leave a mess of tracks, before I even realize it. Safest thing’d be to wait the night out, but yeah, that probably does have us missing Roger, because there’s only so much speed I seem to be able to manage, right now.”

“You and Roger have a backup plan though, don’t you?”

“Yep, he intends to be back the next day first thing in the morning, if we don’t make an appearance on the appointed one. Then after that we’re on our own for a while before he’ll try again.”

“So let’s find a place pretty soon here to set up camp for the night, do our best to reach the spot in the morning, but not worry too much if we have to take that extra day?”

“You, my dear, are an incredibly sensible person. Glad you don’t mind if we have to fall back on Plan B, but of course, I’m gonna give it my best try in the morning, and who knows, we just might make it! If Einar was here though, there’d be no doubt. He’d get there, in a timely manner and ready to ’rassle a bear or pole cat or whatever else might stand in his way when he got there, even if he had to drag himself every step of the way. Maybe I ought to make an effort to be just slightly more like him, in that way.”

“No, you’re doing just fine in that regard! Poor Einar’s going to end up dead one of these times, if he keeps that up. Every time I see him, I find myself a bit more astonished that he hasn’t gone down that path, already. Come on, let’s make camp.”

The spot wasn’t right though, far too steep and with nothing even remotely approaching level to provide them a place to bed down without needing to anchor themselves to a tree to prevent their sliding down the mountainside in the night, and while both of them were willing and prepared to spend the night thus if no other option should prevent itself, Susan was pretty sure they could do better. Grumbling silently under his breath--he’d been keeping himself going and had been ready to do it all night should they decide such was the best course of action, but had quickly got used to the idea of being through for the day after their little conversation, and did not look forward to further torturing his damaged leg--Bud got to his feet, followed her. At least, he knew, with darkness descending quickly, they would have to settle on their spot reasonably soon. Some honeymoon this is turning out to be! Wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Except for the bit with the leg, of course

· · · ·

Helping Einar up onto the side of the bed, Liz relieved him of the still-sleeping Will, who by all appearances had enjoyed a most comfortable walk in the snow. The same could hardly be said for Einar, who was trying very hard but with little success to prevent her seeing just how badly the little jaunt had affected him. Though not nearly so dizzy as he had been before--broth really had helped, in that regard--he was showing all the signs of exhaustion and looked to her very nearly ready to collapse right there on the bed where he sat, and indeed might have done so, had he not been so intent on holding himself perfectly rigid in an attempt to prevent his injured side from flexing. Was a lost cause though, for he had to get Liz’s parka off, gritted his teeth and did it, already starting to shiver in the warmth of the cabin and knowing that things would only grow more difficult, the longer he waited.

“This thing works real well. He really seems to like it.”

“Oh, it’s great! Give him a few weeks to grow--and you a few weeks to eat and rest and all the things I hope you’re going to be doing, now--and we should be ready for our first family trip down to the river to trap muskrat or beaver! What do you think?”

“Sounds like a deal. Got to be careful of tracks, always careful of tracks, but we ought to be able to manage that, and a good batch of muskrat and beaver pelts will add a lot to the supply of good furs we’ve got to work with, here. Give us something to start with when making warm winter things for the little one, as he grows.”

Comments from 19 March

Kellie said…

strange how Einar can make the connection of the parka + baby = warm but not the parka + adult. Instead he thinks he can "toughen himself up" without anything to work with.

Definitely a good chapter! Made me want to shake him up a bit, lol! thanks.

Oh, there are perhaps some places where logic just can’t quite go, for him…

Besides, it’s his job to protect the baby, keep him warm and safe and growing, and he would never think of doing that by setting him out in the snow! But as he sees it, the only way he can keep himself strong and ready to do his job as protector is by constantly asking of himself very nearly more than he’s able to give, stretching his limits and building endurance, and the less he has to work with, the greater that need seems to become.

Nancy1340 said…


Thanks for reading!

19 March, 2012

19 March 2012

Despite Liz’s parka being rather too small for him Einar found it a suitable way to carry the baby, Will soon fast asleep against his back as he worked his way around to the front of the cabin and stood braced against the corner of the woodshed, wanting to talk to the little fellow but finding himself rather too out of breath to say a word. Liz had been right about the broth; even with a significant amount of the stuff to give him energy, he was terribly dizzy and unsure of the world, everything spinning around him so that he gingerly lowered himself to hands and knees and crouched there in the snow until he could trust himself once more with standing. Will hadn’t been in any danger, really, but the incident scared him some, left him worrying just a bit what might have happened had his strangeness progressed from dizziness to a loss of consciousness as ht had done more than once in recent days, and though he had a solution--I’d just lie face down in the snow, let him sleep there all safe and warm on my back until I woke again--Einar did not like having to consider the possibility. He was Will’s protector, took the role tremendously seriously and found the prospect of ending up face down in the snow with the little one on his back wholly incompatible with that role. Had to do better. Which, in his mind, meant spending whatever time was necessary--without the baby in tow--challenging himself and rebuilding his strength, climbing the slope behind the cabin and sitting in the snow until he either froze or found a way to compensate for the cold as he had always been able to do…but already he could hear the disappointment that would be in Liz’s voice when she discovered his plan. She wouldn’t like it one bit, and would, despite hating to admit any such, probably be right in her criticism, too.

“Well, little one, that leaves me in quite a bind, doesn’t it? Guess you and I are just gonna have to go on back in there and have some more soup pretty soon, unless you can come up with a better idea. Not just yet, though. This parka works so well that I want to be sure and give it a real thorough test. Let’s do some walking.” Into the timber, then, Einar keeping well beneath the thickest growth of trees with the intention of minimizing tracks, climbing up and over fallen trees, slogging through the deep snow and generally giving the parka a thorough testing, finding himself every bit as satisfied with its performance as Liz had been. A safe, secure and warm way, indeed, to carry the little one, and tucked in there beneath the hood, he would have been thoroughly protected even had a storm been blowing. Yep, Inuits definitely knew what they were doing when it came to bringing little ones safely through the winter, and it’s a good thing, too. Good that we can learn a little bit from their example rather than having to figure all of this out for ourselves, from scratch. We’d have got it, I have no doubt, taken care of the little guy but this device sure is gonna make things easier.

“Speaking of getting you through the winter, little one, you know, it’s a funny thing about us humans… Most every other mammal-critter in temperate areas like this one is wired so that they give birth to their young in the spring, when the worst of the hard times have passed and the food’s starting to show back up again, but what do us humans do? We just go ahead and procreate whenever we doggone well please, with no regard whatsoever to the season. Almost as if seasons didn’t exist. Now why would we go and do that? Strange. Guess that’s because the Lord gave us brains that allow us to be a lot more flexible, handle things like bringing newborn, hairless infants safely through months and months of sub-zero temperatures up in the high country like this, keep ’em warm, find food for ourselves and their mothers and keep everybody fed and alive and all, but it still seems pretty odd, don’t you think?”

No answer from Will, who, quite oblivious to the whys and wherefores of human existence, the intricacies of anthropological theorizing and the timing of mammalian birthing seasons, slept warmly on his father’s back, dreaming the deep, mysterious dreams which always fill the sleep of infants and send inscrutable little smiles flitting across their faces, and at whose nature grown-up people cannot even begin to effectively guess. Einar shrugged, sleep, there’ll be plenty of time to answer, when you get older, continued his walk. Sky remained clear; the Kilgores ought to have a fine day for their climb, and he figured they’d be needing it, between Bud’s injuries and their unfamiliarity with the route. The three of them had gone over the maps together, Einar pointing out what he believed would be two of the best ways up to the portion of the open ridge where Roger Kiesl intended to swoop in sometime the next morning and scoop them up, but seeing it on the map wasn’t the same as having walked the terrain before, and he hoped they would be able to avoid some of the steeper, more open areas where avalanches would pose a real risk. As would any tracks they ended up showing in those clear zones, unmistakable beacons for any passing aircraft to see. Despite occasional misgivings that tried to creep their way in--difficult to trust anyone, after all, and he never was quite sure that he was correctly reading people’s intentions--Einar really did trust that Kilgore would do his very best to protect them and their security as he made his way out of the area, and he could only hope and pray that it would be a success. Wouldn’t be able to relax, exactly, until sometime after the next storm, after he was sure that all tracks left by the departing couple had been thoroughly obliterated. Which storm, he knew, ought also to provide him the cover he needed to go and retrieve the items left by Kilgore in the basin, practical, useful things which would ease their life up there, no doubt, as well as the mysterious envelope whose vaguely guessed-at contents had been so occupying his thoughts since their first mention.

Well. Later. That was all for later. For the moment, he figured he’d really better be getting back to the cabin before Liz started fearing that her worst apprehensions had come to fruition, leaving him to lie face down in the snow with the little one on his back, waking, hungry and helpless to find his way back home. No, couldn’t have her thinking that, only, glancing around and seeing how very far he’d managed to wander from the cabin while so deep in thought, speculation and conversation with the sleeping baby, he guessed she would have to wait at least a little while to get her answer. Fellow could only be expected to walk so fast with a baby on his back and arms held rather close to his body by the confines of a too-small parka, but over the next twenty or so minutes he definitely tested those limits, retracing his original trail in the knowledge that he’d been extremely careful to keep to the heaviest timber where any tracks he might leave would be thoroughly concealed from the air.

By the time he got himself turned around and halfway back to the cabin Einar was really beginning to notice even the baby’s rather insignificant weight on his back, the burning, twisting hurt in his side which had begtn on his long haul with Kilgore returning with a vengeance that took his breath and left him all hunched over as he covered those final few yards, straightening up only with the greatest difficulty and pressing an elbow to his side in an attempt to alleviate the hurt brought his ribs by the simple act of breathing. Will was not troubled in the least, sleeping quite happily and even helping, in some small degree, to keep his father warm so that Einar was barely even shivering by the time he made his way back through the tunnel--that would come later, he knew, when he returned the child to his mother and stopped moving--Liz greeting him with a big smile as he pushed his way in through the tunnel door.